Sunday, April 27, 2014

Easter Christians are Courageous Witnesses

Acts 5:29-42 After our Lord was betrayed by Judas and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was led away by soldiers to appear before Caiaphas and Annas and the Jewish Council.  As Jesus was being interrogated and mistreated, Peter made his way into the outer courts where he was questioned by those who gathered there.  Each time when he was identified as a disciple of Jesus he denied it—again and again and again. 
After the third denial, he heard the rooster crow—just as the Lord had prophesied—and when he heard that, the Bible says that he went outside and wept bitterly.  All of his big talk about remaining faithful to the Lord—his pride in his strength—his SELF-confidence—it all came crashing down when he saw just how weak and frail and cowardly he really was. 
It is not until early in the morning, on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath rest, that we encounter him again as the faithful women rush into the room where he was staying, bearing the Good News that the Lord had been raised from the dead. 
From the voice of judgment in the rooster’s crow-- to the voice of forgiveness in the Easter morning Good News--Peter was a changed man—his cowardice was replaced with courage.
That is the power of the resurrection in a believer’s life—not just in giving us a new, eternal life that death cannot end—but changing us for the better right here and now.  What we are going to see today from God’s Word is that Easter Christians are courageous witnesses to Jesus Christ.  The Bible says that:
Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
These words were spoken to the same people who tried Jesus and condemned him to death—the same people who struck such fear in Peter’s heart that he denied Jesus again and again—it was to these same people that Peter and the apostles bore courageous witness.  That is the difference the resurrection made in their lives.
In the days and weeks after the resurrection Peter and the apostles and the other disciples and the faithful women could not stop talking about what they had seen and heard from the resurrected Lord.  Every place they went—every person they talked to—they saw as an opportunity to bear witness about Jesus.  Every day new believers were being added to their number.  The entire population of Jerusalem held them in high regard. 
And the response of the council to Peter and disciples was the same as it was towards Jesus:  they were jealous of their popularity and they persecuted them.
When the disciples were brought before the council and told to keep quiet, this is how Peter responded:  We must obey God rather than men.  And then they proceeded to tell the story of Jesus:  how their sins were responsible for his death, how God raised him from the dead, how Jesus was the Savior of the world, and how the Holy Spirit wanted this Good News preached for the salvation of many.  That was their courageous witness.   
So it is in the lives of all of those who are Easter Christians.  We live in a time and place that is just as antagonistic to the truth of God’s Word and just as opposed to Jesus as was Jerusalem two thousand years ago. 
More and more across the world (and even in our own nation) there is concerted opposition to the message of the church regarding sin and grace.  From the Gospel being forbidden in Muslim nations, to the preaching of the law regarding marriage and sexuality being outlawed in more and more western nations, to Christians being ridiculed for their beliefs and forced to go out of business rather than participate in sin and having their prayers silenced in public in our own nation, the message of Christ and the church is opposed by the powers that be. 
But the rallying cry of Christians when it comes to bearing witness to Christ is still the same:  We must obey God rather than men.  We musttell the truth about God’s will so that men can know their sins.  We musttell the truth about Jesus so that men can be saved. 
As Easter Christians we must courageously bear witness to the truth because the opposition of the world will only grow.  The Bible says that:  When they [the Council] heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them [Peter and the apostles].
And so why was there this rage?  Why are Christians so violently persecuted around the world?  Why is there an ever-increasing contempt for Christians in our own country? 
Part of the answer is that Easter Christians do not recognize a greater authority than the risen Christ.  “Jesus is Lord”—that was the proclamation of the church and those simple words led to wholesale persecution.  Early Christians would not stop talking about Jesus no matter how much the Jews wanted them to.  Neither would they engage in pagan ceremonies no matter how much the Romans wanted them to.  And so there was persecution on every side.
So it still is today.  The government is not our Lord.  Popular culture is not our Lord.  The opinion of others is not our Lord.  Jesus is the King of kings.  He is the Lord of lords.  He is not an idea or a philosophy that we can take or leave or adapt to the day.  He is our living, breathing sovereign and we owe him our allegiance above all else and above everyone else.
The second reason that the world is enraged against Easter Christians is that when we speak God’s Word we speak the truth.  The world despises the fact that we tell the truth about sin.  When Peter stood before the Council, he looked them dead in the eye and said:  You killed Jesus by hanging him on a tree.  That was the truth and it infuriated them.  The unbelieving world cannot bear to have its sins pointed out and people today are no different than they were then which is why there is such antagonism to the message of the church about God’s will.
But they are also violently opposed to the Gospel.  The message of the cross (that there is salvation in Jesus but only in Jesus) is an offense to modern religious ideas about many paths leading to God and the futility of our own good works earning our way to heaven. 
It takes courage to be an Easter Christian and bear witness to Jesus.  To refuse to go along with friends and family members—to refuse to acknowledge any authority who calls us to go against God’s Word—to face the powers that be and speak out—this takes courage. 
It takes courage to tell the truth about sin—especially the sin that the culture refuses to acknowledge.  It takes courage to call upon people to make a radical change in their life.  It takes courage to say that there is salvation in Jesus Christ alone and that every other religion and every other idea about life with God is wrong and leads only to hell.  It takes courage to witness.
The world around us today despises that witness as much as it did back then and the temptation in the face of opposition is to simply withdraw behind the walls of the church and remain silent.  Peter and the apostles faced this temptation too. 
But what gave them courage to speak was the power of the resurrected Christ who changed their lives and had the power to change the lives of those to whom they bore witness.  The Bible says that after Peter and the Apostles spoke to the council:
A Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while.  And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men…and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”
            The very thing that changed Peter from cowardly to courageous was the same thing that gave him confidence to witness in the face of incredible odds that said the world would reject his message:  the resurrection of Jesus.  When the resurrected Christ appeared to Peter and the other disciples they knew that the world was changed forever.  Death was a conquered enemy and Jesus was the victor.  What was the opposition of mere men compared to that?
Already Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea had become disciples.  More and more the Jewish priests were becoming disciples.  Jesus’ brothers who had opposed him had become leaders in the church.  That is the power of the resurrection!
With every conversion--with every changed heart--the disciples’ courage and confidence grew.  They faced the Jewish Council—these same men who had condemned Jesus—and thought:  why not?  Why shouldn’t we bear witness to them too?  Why can’t they be converted?  Are they more powerful than the risen Christ?  Paul had the same attitude towards the Romans. 
Even though the church was being persecuted—even though the disciples would be martyred—even though Rome was the greatest empire that had ever existed—the apostles weren’t intimidated or afraid to witness.  Paul wantedto go to Rome and plead his case.  He knew that Christ had conquered death and that gave him the courage and confidence to bear witness to him to the powers of the day.
So it must be for us.  We live in a culture with very little regard for the values of the Gospel.  We live in a time where even the last few vestiges of a Christian culture are vanishing.  We live in a country where our government has become increasingly antagonistic to the Faith.  Far too many Christians view the situation as hopeless and retreat behind the closed doors of churches while those around us go to hell.
It is our mission to bear witness to Jesus despite the opposition of the world and trust God with the results.  Peter and the Apostles didn’t know what the outcome would be that day to their witness—whether any of the Council would come to faith or not.  But at least some of them were willing to listen and the disciples were courageous enough to face opposition so that others might know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  The Bible says that:
They [the council] took his [Gamaliel’s] advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
            We should get it settled in our hearts and minds right now that there are consequences—sometimes painful ones—to being a Christian. 
It’s only because we have been particularly blessed to live in this country that we forget that for the vast majority of the world’s Christians, for the vast majority of time that the church has existed—there have been painful consequences to being a Christian.    
What gives us the courage to face a cross-filled life of witness is the empty tomb.  Jesus went to the cross, suffered, and died.  But he rose again.  There is victory in his resurrection and the courage to face our crosses because no matter how dark and difficult and dangerous they are, the empty tomb is a promise of better things to come.  The Bible says that:
They left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
            Every day, in every place, to every person the disciples courageously bore witness to Jesus Christ.  It was not easy!  Already they had suffered persecution and pain and imprisonment for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  But rather than shrink back.  Rather than complain about how unjust it all was—they rejoiced.  They rejoiced! 
            Jesus had promised that this is the way it would be for those who were his disciples and what they suffered as they bore witness to him was also a testimony about who they were—that they really were his faithful people.
            The resurrection is what made all the difference!  They knew what Jesus suffered on the cross.  But there was more!  There was much more!  In the empty tomb there was victory and life for Jesus and there was victory of life for all of God’s people.  May we know the same in Jesus Christ and may his resurrection make us courageous witnesses to him in all that we say and do!  Amen.

Easter 2a General Prayer

Lord God heavenly Father, we call upon You in the name of Jesus Christ, remembering and giving thanks for the wondrous works You have done, seeking Your strength and presence:

Empower the witness of Your people so that we would courageously tell of Your wondrous works and make known Your deeds among the people.  We ask You to prosper the work of all missionaries, especially Pastor Haugen’s work in New Guinea and Pastor May in Africa so that people everywhere could come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved.

Grant us courage to put You first in every moment and circumstance and relationship.  Help us to always say:  We must obey God rather than men.  As You have exalted Your Son Jesus to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sin, grant the same to our own nation, leaders, and people.  Send a spiritual renewal upon our nation that we might put away our besetting sins and confess You as Lord.

We give You thanks that You have caused us to be born again to a living hope through the power of Your Word.  Help us to live as Your children during our earthly lives until that day we receive the inheritance You have kept in heaven for us. 

Give aid to those who are grieved by various trials.  Comfort those who mourn; provide for those who are in any need; strengthen those who are persecuted; and heal those are ill, especially Madeline.  Let hard times refine our faith so that it brings You praise, glory, and honor at the coming of Jesus Christ.

When we have doubts in our life of faith, direct us continually to Your Son Jesus Christ who speaks to us in the Bible and makes himself present to us in Holy Communion.  Give us a renewed commitment to worship You as You deserve and receive Your gifts so that we may that believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and have life in his name.

Whatever else You see that we need; whatever gives glory to You and serves our neighbor; grant to us dear Father in heaven for we ask all things in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He is Not Here! He Has Risen!

Matthew 28:1-10 When we plant seeds in our garden we eagerly expect to see, in fairly short order, new life springing up from the ground.  All the way back in Genesis God promised that, While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease”.  Seedtime and harvest shall not cease!
God is faithful to his promises and throughout the years the world he created and called good has performed and provided according to his wise design.  Every farmer or gardener that plants a seed in the ground counts on that promise that seedtime and harvest will not cease.
When Jesus died on the cross, Joseph of Arimethea asked for his body, and along with Nicodemus and the faithful women, prepared his body for burial.  The Bible says that in the place where Jesus was crucified there was a garden and in the garden there was a new tomb and they laid Jesus there.  That’s how Good Friday ended…
The Seed of the Woman that God had promised all the way back in the Garden of Eden, the Seed of the Woman who would undo all the destruction that sin and Satan had caused, was laid in the earth—with the harvest God promised still come.  The Bible says that:
…after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
            They went to see the tomb.  Who can blame them?  After we lay our loved ones in the grave none of us returns the next day to see if they have been raised from the dead.  These faithful women remained with Jesus every step of the way that led to the cross and knew he died.
They saw him whipped and beaten and humiliated.  They saw him struggle under the weight of the cross and stumble and fall as he walked through Jerusalem.  They saw the hammer blows drive nails into his hands and feet and they saw a Roman spear thrust into his side. 
They saw him die-- and they handled his dead body and prepared it for burial and watched as it was laid in the tomb and the stone rolled in front of it to seal it off.
There was nothing so certain, so sure in their minds as the death of Jesus.  And early in the morning, on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath rest, they went to see his tomb.  Who can blame them?  Which of us wouldn’t have done the same?  Except…
During his earthly ministry, Jesus told them on a number of occasions just exactly what was going to happen—that his own people would reject him, that friends would betray him, that he would be crucified…and…that he would rise again.  That is a remarkable claim, but…
Had they ever known Jesus NOT to keep his word?  Had they ever once heard falsehood come out of his mouth?  He was faithful to his promises!  And there was more…
A number of times during the previous three years he had raised the dead.  He demonstrated time and again that in his presence death was a defeated enemy. 
In fact, just a week or so before he died, Jesus stood at the grave of Lazarus, dead for days, commanded the grave stone to be rolled away, identified himself as the resurrection and the life and called Lazarus to come forth from his tomb—and he did! 
If anyone had listened to Jesus—if anyone had really thought about his power—if anyone believed in him--they shouldn’t have been traveling to see a tomb—they should have been standing there to welcome their living Lord.  The Bible says that:
There was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
            When God promised that seedtime and harvest would never cease, that promise was true.  But what was also true is that sin has undermined that promise. 
Every year throughout the world, there is seedtime and harvest-- but there are also places where there are floods and hail and droughts.  Seedtime and harvest fail in those places.  Sin has destroyed what was once a perfect creation.  The Bible says that:  the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 
That is exactly what happened early in the morning on the first day of the week.  Creation herself, ruined by Adam’s sin, groaned—she could not remain silent in the presence of her Redeemer just as she could not let the light of the sun shine while the Light of the World died on the cross.  Creation herself testified to the death and resurrection of her Creator.
Along with the earthquake, an angel of the Lord appeared to announce that Jesus had been raised and with his resurrection the defeat of Satan and redemption of man.  How the angels must have longed for this day!
The angels had been there in the garden when God’s judgment was announced—they saw death enter the world—and they were appointed as guards to keep Adam and Eve out of the Garden and away from the tree of life. 
Throughout salvation history the angels executed God’s judgment and comforted God’s people and proclaimed that salvation had come with the birth of Jesus.  They worked with God every step of the way as he patiently carried out his plan of salvation and now they were here in the Garden of Glory to see it accomplished in the resurrection of Jesus. 
After the angels appeared to Zechariah and Elizabeth and Mary and Joseph--after they sang praises to the newborn king--after they strengthened Jesus in the wilderness and comforted him in Gethsemane --what a blessing it must have been to see the Seed of the Woman burst forth from the grave with new life for the world!
They rolled away the stone so that the women- and the disciples who followed them- and every person down through history from that moment on could look inside and see that Jesus had conquered death and the grave just as he promised he would.  The Bible says that at this announcement:  the guards trembled and became like dead men.
            Such are the enemies of God in the face of the risen Christ.  The world’s most powerful rulers.  The fiercest pagan tribes.  The most evil empires.  All of them have been conquered one by one by the humble, gentle man of Galilee—simply by his almighty Word of life. 
What was the Roman Empire or the barbarian tribes or Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union compared to the risen Christ?  They had soldiers- and the weapons of war- and the power of the law- and the media on their side- but one by one they were conquered by the message of the cross and empty tomb:  it is finished and Christ is risen!
            It is this Good News of Christ, crucified and risen, that still has the power to defeat our enemies and conquer our fears and give us a new life filled with witness and worship and hope.  The angel said:
Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
            From that moment on every one of us has been commissioned to be a witness for Jesus Christ, telling what we have seen and heard and its power in our lives. 
The faithful women told the disciples and the disciples shared that message, beginning first in Jerusalem and then throughout the Roman Empire.  Those who followed the apostles have shared that message wherever they have gone down to this place and the people assembled here today.
 The faithful women never made it Kingsville, Texas.  But we have-- and we are commissioned in exactly the same way as they were to tell those around us the Good News that in Jesus Christ we have forgiveness for our sins and the promise of a new life that death will not end so that those who hear us can worship the Lord.  The Bible says that:
Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.
            The response of the faithful women was the most natural thing in the world.  How could they not worship the One who died for them and conquered death for them by his own resurrection?  Could anything be more important in that moment than their worship?!
For those who have put their faith and trust in the work of Jesus Christ—for those who find their salvation at the cross and empty tomb--how can we not worship?  How can we not cast ourselves at Jesus feet to thank and praise him for who he is and what he has done? 
We were made for the worship of God and he is worthy of that worship and his people will spend eternity worshiping in his presence.  Jesus said to them:  “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
            That is a promise for us too!  We will see Jesus just as surely as did the faithful women and we will see our fellow Christians who have gone before.
Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, death and the grave have no power over us!  He is the first-fruits of an entire harvest of people who will rise from their graves to live new and glorious lives like his own, never to die again. 
            Here is the Garden of Glory there is an incredible harvest of God’s blessings for us.  There is the assurance that Jesus will keep his promises to us.  All of them!  There is confidence that, just as God has wisely worked out his perfect plan of salvation for the world, so he is wisely working salvation in our lives, no matter what hardship we endure.  There is a life of meaning and value here on earth that is filled with the worship of Jesus and our witness to him.  And finally there is the hope we have of another life to come. 
            Everything that was lost in the Garden of Eden has been regained here in the Garden of glory by the one who conquered death and the grave this Easter Day.  Amen.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Matthew 27:33 In the beginning there was a garden.  It was a place of beauty and wonder and goodness.  It was fresh and new.  There was no ugliness.  No lack.  No hunger or violence or want.  In a world that God called into being and called “good”-- this garden was even more.  It was the place where God dwelt with man.  They lived in perfect fellowship with one another.  No barrier between them.  No hard feelings, guilt or shame.
            In this garden were two special trees.  There was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  And there was the Tree of Life.  Both of these trees worked in perfect agreement with their names because God himself promised that they would.  The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil provided that knowledge-- and the Tree of Life gave life, full, unending, eternal life.  God’s Word attached to those trees gave them their power.
Dwelling there with God in the garden was man:  Adam and Eve.  God loved them.  He provided for them.  He wanted to protect them from anything that would harm them.  And so he gave them his law:  you must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil for the day you eat of it you will die. 
You know the rest of the story.  You can tell it as well as I can.  What we struggle to understand is what they did what they did.  In a perfect world, where they dwelt with God, when they had everything they could possible need, why on earth would they reach out their hand to what God had forbidden, take of it, and eat? 
Part of that answer of course is the devil.  He was there at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, contradicting everything that God had said.  “There is no curse here!  There is no loss here!  There is only gain!  You will be like God!”
That is part of the answer of why Adam and Even did what they did—but it is only part.  The other part of the answer is found in themselves:  ears that were willing to listen to the devil, eyes that were willing to look on forbidden things, hands that were willing to take what didn’t belong to them, and hearts that strayed from a God who loved them and desired to bless them.
When we think about what happened in the garden that way, then it begins to make a lot more sense.  We begin to see our story in their story.  Eyes and ears—hearts and hands-- that disobey.  We understand THAT story, don’t we?  We know how that story goes.
Adam and Eve took fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and ate.  The tree worked just exactly how God promised it would:  there was knowledge of good and evil but what a terrible curse that knowledge was! 
They knew that God was good in a way that they could never be—in a way they never could have imagined.  And they knew that they were evil—evil in a way they never could have imagined—evil-- like the one who tempted them, promising that they would be like God—but giving them instead a hateful, evil image like his own. 
Their disobedience destroyed God’s creation.  Life was replaced with death—beauty with ugliness.  Fellowship with God became fear of God.
There was another tree there.  The Tree of Life.  That tree had a promise of God attached to it as well.  It would give life.  Eternal, unending life.  If Adam and Eve had eaten of that tree they would have lived forever-- for God’s promise is true.  But they would have lived forever as they were:  broken, sinful, alienated from God and allied with the devil.
And so God cast them out of the garden to keep them from that terror.  You see he still loved them.  Despite their sin.  Despite their disobedience.  Despite what they had done to his world.  God loved them.  He cast them out from the garden to keep them from the tree of life and he promised that he would make things right once again—that he would send the Seed of the Woman to save the world.  He sealed that promise with the shedding of blood.
We can picture Adam and Eve being cast out of the garden.  But what I want you to picture, is the line of people who followed them.  Their children, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and more and more.  An unimaginably long, sad line of people going forth throughout history, bearing Adam’s curse, cast out of God’s presence.
That sad line of people, if we are following it in our mind’s eye, brings us to another place—a place called Golgotha.  We call it a garden in keeping with our theme—but it was nothing like the Garden of Eden.  It was a place of ugliness.  A place of death.  A rough, rocky outcropping shaped like a skull where crucifixions were carried out. 
Golgotha is where that sad like of broken humanity stretching back to Adam and Eve had finally come—a place of death—just like God promised.
There was a man in this Garden of Golgotha—a man who looked nothing like Adam in all his glory.  This man had suffered such a horrendous beating that no one could bear to look at him.  His face was so disfigured by the blood from the thorns on his head and the brokenness of his beating that even his friends could not recognize him.  Nails had been driven into his hands and feet.  Every breath was agony.
There were other people there too.  That long, sad, ugly line of people that went all the way back to Eden had continued along the Via Dolorosa and then out through the gates of Jerusalem and made its way up to this hill of death called the skull. 
There were religious leaders who should have had words of life on their lips but were agents of death.  There were soldiers whose life’s work was death.  There were criminals whose deeds were worthy of death.  There were loved ones of the condemned whose broken hearts already mourned his death.  Death.  Death.  Death.
What made this scene even more horrible was that the One who was beaten and shamed and crucified was completely different than every other person in that sad line of humanity stretching forth from Eden. 
He was innocent of any wrong-doing.  He was holy and sinless.  He deserved nothing that had happened to him.  It was the height of injustice that he had been sentenced to death.  He shouldn’t have been in that line of broken humanity at all—except that he chose to be there. 
As we gaze upon that scene—as our eyes follow that sad line of broken, sinful, dying humanity that stretches forth from the Garden of Eden throughout history right up to the cross and the death of this holy, innocent, sinless man—we might think to ourselves:  this is the end—it simply cannot get worse than this--this is the culmination of ugliness and sin—this is the undeniable fulfillment of God’s terrible wrath over what man has done.
And we would be right.  The death of this holy, innocent man is the culmination of evil.  It is the fulfillment of God’s wrath.  It is the inescapable end of human sin. 
But that is NOT ALL it is!  It is also a beginning.  This place is a new start for mankind.  You see, the one who hung there on that cross, the innocent, sinless man who shed his life’s blood there, is the Seed of the Woman that God promised back in the Garden of Eden.
Into the ground of Golgotha (whose very name means death) Jesus Christ, the Seed of the Woman, the One who is life in himself-- was planted into a place of death.  He is that single grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies—and yet—from which, springs abundant life.
That is why we CAN call this place of death the GARDEN of Golgotha—because the beginnings of a new Eden were planted there.  In this Garden of Golgotha there is a tree—the tree of the cross.  Back in Eden there were two trees:  the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life.  Here in the Garden of Golgotha only one tree is needed for both.
At the tree of the cross is the knowledge of good and evil.  We see there, as in no other place, just exactly what our sins have done—their evil—their ugliness.  We see there, as in no other place, the goodness of God and the holiness and sinlessness of Jesus, that even when he was being treated in such an evil fashion the only words that came from his lips were words of forgiveness- and care-and trust in his heavenly Father.
The tree of the cross not only shows us good and evil.  It is also the tree of life.  Life is promised there.  Rich, abundant, everlasting life that comes through the promises God has attached to the cross.  Where before man was forbidden to touch the tree of life because of his sins, now God invites us to lay hold of it by faith and live forever because we are forgiven. 
We should also be aware that just as in Eden so at Golgotha, the devil is there with his lies.  His voice is heard in the scorners and mockers who stood there at the tree of the cross.  “He saved others, let him save himself!”  “If you come down from the cross, then we will believe!”
The devil’s mocking, scornful voice is heard throughout the world today, tempting us this time to refuse to take hold of the tree of life that God calls us to in the cross.
The Bible says that:  They came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull).  There was a procession of people who walked with Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem, out through the city gates, to the place called the skull. 
Some of them ridiculed him.  Some mourned him.  Some would not desert him even in death.  Some crucified him.  One helped him carry the cross. Some who left Golgotha that day remained unbelievers.  Some who came there as God’s enemies left as his children.
That procession of people is part of the great stream of humanity that came forth from Eden and through Golgotha.  We too are a part of that group.  We came out of the Garden of Eden but what matters now is who we are when we leave the Garden of Golgotha.  Amen.